N.Y.: Employee Alleging Religious Discrimination Voluntarily Resigned

By Rosemarie Lally Dec 16, 2014

An employee who left her job on the first day without giving her employer an opportunity to investigate her belief that she suffered religious discrimination was disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits because she voluntarily left her employment without good cause, a New York appellate court held.

Roberta Katz was hired by an organization that provides vocational services to persons with disabilities in December 2012. Her work schedule was Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Prior to accepting the job, she received her employer’s assurance that her religious practices would be accommodated, which meant that she would have to leave work at 2:45 p.m. on Friday to observe the Jewish Sabbath.

Her trainer scheduled a meeting on Friday from 2:00 until 3:00, but told Katz that she could leave at 2:45. At 2:40, however, the trainer asked her to prepare a computer-generated report. Katz responded that she could not complete it within five minutes, and the trainer then agreed to prepare it herself but asked Katz to log on to her computer to get a password the trainer needed to do the report. At 2:50, the trainer observed that Katz was upset and anxious to get home, so she told her to leave.

Katz did not report to work the following Monday and resigned from her position based on what she perceived as religious harassment. Her application for unemployment insurance benefits was rejected; the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board ruled that she was disqualified from receiving benefits because she voluntarily left her employment without good cause.

On appeal, the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, affirmed the board’s ruling. The court found that, regardless of the inappropriateness of the trainer's actions, Katz had resigned from her position without giving her employer an opportunity to investigate the matter or take corrective action. The court noted that Katz had emailed her employer announcing her resignation the Sunday after the incident and prior to discussing the situation with the human resources manager.

Finding that “substantial evidence” supports the board's finding that claimant voluntarily left her employment without good cause, the court affirmed the board’s decision.

Katz v. Commissioner of Labor, N.Y. Supreme Ct, App. Div., 2014 NY Slip Op 07556 (Nov. 6, 2014).

Rosemarie Lally, J.D., is a freelance legal writer and editor based in Washington, D.C.


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